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Record 1.3 Million High School Students Vaping Nicotine, Report Finds

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There are growing concerns about the number of teenagers who vape. A new government report says a record number of high school students are now using electronic cigarettes.

More than 1.3 million high school students started vaping nicotine in the past year, according to a large annual survey of teen smoking, drinking and drug use.

Experts blame the increase in e-cigarette use on a big social media push by one of the most popular brands.

It's the hottest new trend in high school, student's vaping, using nicotine-tinged electronic cigarettes.

Many contain high levels of nicotine, which is addictive and can be harmful to the developing brain.

The federally-funded study found 21 percent of high school seniors reported vaping a nicotine product in the last 30 days.

It's nearly double the number from last year, and the largest one-year increase of any substance in the survey's 44-year history.

Experts attribute the jump to newer versions of e-cigarettes like JUUL that resemble computer flash drives and can be used discreetly.

"They really wanted to appeal to the younger market, and they did," said Christina Zayas.

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Zayas is a blogger and social media influencer with 57,000 Instagram followers. She was hired by JUUL to post positive content about its e-cigarette.

"If you are a smoker, then please let me know if you're interested in a collaboration with JUUL," said Zayas.

Experts say teenagers are especially susceptible to being influenced on social media.

"They advertised exactly where young people live. Young people today are on social media. They're on their phones continuously throughout the day, looking on social media channels," said Dr. Robert Jackler, of Stanford University School of Medicine.

A statement from JUUL said it paid "fewer than 10 influencers 28 and up," "who were all smokers or former smokers," and "collectively paid less than $10,000."

But since the FDA cracked down on JUUL this fall, the company says it ended its social media campaign in the United States.

"Turning off JUUL's own contribution at this point doesn't matter because it's become a fad and it's taken on a life of its own," said Dr. Jackler.

Zayas has stopped using JUUL and while her Instagram post and blog reached more than 5,000 people, she wonders if it was worth it.

"Stepping back, I think that when I saw all the kids smoking it at this festival during the summer, it just kind of turned me off. I'm actually considering writing a blog post on why I quit," said Zayas.

The survey found that while vaping has increased among teenagers, overall, the use of alcohol and drugs has declined.

Drinking remains the most popular when it comes to substance abuse.

Another concern with kids' vaping is they're more likely to also use traditional cigarettes.

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